iPad Pro

Considering how poorly Microsoft has been doing with its Surface, it’s quite remarkable to see Apple jumping into the same product category with the 12.9″ iPad Pro, which arrived in November.

iPad Pro colorsThat said, Apple is taking a whole different approach than Microsoft. Where Microsoft started out with two kinds of Surface tablets – the ARM-based Surface RT that only uses Windows RT apps from Microsoft’s online Windows Store and the x86-based Surface Pro that can run regular Windows apps and competes with laptops – the iPad Pro is strictly an iOS tablet. Although it may steal some MacBook Air sales, it does not run Mac software. It’s iOS-only, although with true multitasking in iOS 9, it’s no longer limited to one active app at a time.

Microsoft did so poorly with its ARM-based tablets that it discontinued the last one in January 2015, making Surface an x86-only platform at that point. The original Surface and Surface 2 can only run Windows RT apps compiled for their ARM architecture.

Apple promised nearly twice the performance of the iPad Air 2, which was the most powerful iDevice prior to the September 2015 announcement of the iPad Pro. The A9X processor has twice the memory bandwidth of the A8X, which means loading apps, opening files, and saving files should be twice as fast. On top of that, it runs at an amazing 2.25 GHz, giving it a real edge over the triple-core A8X even though the A9X only has two cores.

Ars Technica has reviewed the iPad Pro and run Geekbench on it. In the single-core test, the iPad Pro scores 3233 overall compared to 1831 for the iPad Air 2. That’s 76% faster. On the multi-core test, the iPad Pro achieves a score of 5498 vs. 4542 for the iPad Air 2. That’s only a 21% better score, but that’s also comparing a dual-core A9X with a triple-core A8X.

All this in a device barely heavier than the original iPad.

Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro

But it’s not just about the iPad Pro itself. There are two important accessories – the Smart Keyboard and the Apple Pencil. The $169 Smart Keyboard connects to the iPad Pro using the Smart Connector, Apple’s new interface that support moving power and data in both directions.

Apple Pencil is a wireless multitouch stylus that’s sensitive to both pressure and its angle relative to the iPad Pro’s surface. To charge it, remove the cap and plug it into the iPad’s Lightning port. With a full charge, you can use the $99 Apple Pencil for 12 hours.

iPad Pro with Apple Pencil

The iPad Pro has four speakers and automatically switches stereo channels as the device is rotated.

The WiFi version is available in 32 GB and 128 GB variants, while the cellular iPad Pro is only available in a 128 GB configuration. You can get it in silver, gold, or space gray.

Hardware Overview


  • Announced: 2015.09.09 at $799 (32 GB) and $949 (128 GB). $1079 for 128 GB cellular version. Available November 2015.
  • Included accessories: USB 2.0 Lightning connector, USB power adapter
  • Code name: XX
  • Identifiers:
    • WiFi only: unknown
    • Cellular: unknown
  • Model numbers:
    • WiFi only: unknown
    • Cellular: unknown
  • Product numbers:
    • WiFi only:
    • Cellular version:


  • CPU: 2.25 GHz 64-bit dual-core Apple A9X
  • RAM: 4 GB (assumed)
  • Architecture: 64-bit
  • Audio chip: Cirrus Logic CS4398
  • Graphics engine: quad-core PowerVR GXA6850
  • Display: 12.9″ 2732 x 2048 pixel multitouch screen @ 264 ppi
  • Cameras
    • rear: 8 MP 1080p iSight HD with image stabilization
    • front: 1.2 MP 720p FaceTime HD
  • Sensors: accelerometer, ambient light, compass, 3-axis gyroscope, barometer, iBeacon microlocation, fingerprint identity scanner in Home button


  • Geekbench, single core: 3233
  • Geekbench, multicore: 5498


  • I/O ports: Lightning connector, Smart Connector
  • WiFi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz – up to 866 Mbps
  • Bluetooth: 4.2
  • Wireless data: UTMS/HSPA/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz), GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz), CDMA EV-DO Rev. A/B (800, 1900 MHz), LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29, 38, 39, 40, and 41)
  • Wireless data rate: up to 150 Mbps via LTE
  • GPS: WiFi-assisted GPS


  • Battery: 38.5 Watt-hour lithium polymer
  • Battery life: up to 10 hours on WiFi, 9 hours using cellular data


  • Original OS: iOS 9.0
  • Maximum OS: current
  • iTunes Versions: iTunes 12.3 and later
  • Mac OS Required: OS X 10.7.5 or later
  • Windows Versions Supported: Windows 7 or later

Dimensions and Weight

  • Dimensions: 12.0″ x 8.68″ x 0.27″ (305.7 x 220.6 x 6.9 mm)
  • Weight: 1.57 lb. (713 g) for WiFi model, 1.59 lb. (723 g) for cellular version

Further Reading

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